Finding a good machine shop

I think my Sigwalt Ideal No. 5 needs to visit a machine shop to re-fit a part that doesn’t sit straight, but I have never had any occasion to use a machine shop and feel mystified by all the listings in the Minneapolis Yellow Pages and on the Web. I’m not even exactly sure what they do.

What are some good screening questions to ask when scouting for a shop, to be sure the shop is capable of working on a rather frail elderly gentleman such as this press?

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You will probably get many more informed answers than mine, but I would suggest talking to someone at a local technical school or industrial arts college. They can possibly direct you or may even have someone there who would like to take on your project.

Another possibility would be to talk to someone at a local science/industry museum.

Great ideas—thank you!

I needed to have a part from my big C&P repaired and all my research led me to believe that many machine shops no longer know how to properly handle cast iron. I happened to work next door to a machine shop which happened to specialize in repairing antique tractors which happen to also be made of cast iron. They did a really nice job. I would suggest perhaps looking for a shop that specifically deals with iron (if your part is iron, that is). Which part is not fitting so well, by the way? I’m always thinking my sigwalt runs kind of crooked…

Hi Gillyfish,

Thanks for the suggestion—looks as though your machinist did a nice job.

On my press, it’s the hunk of metal that supports the platen—I don’t know what the proper name of the part is.

The platen doesn’t close straight, and I’ve had to take off the tympan bails to make it close enough to get an impression; otherwise they get in the way on the left side.

I think I’ve finally (after lots of oiling, gingerly disassembling, and staring) traced the problem to that platen support piece—it does not sit evenly on the shaft around which it rotates, and I think that’s making the platen sit off to the left. Where the shaft runs through, there is more air on the one side than on the other between the piece and the main body of the press. It also sits a little lower on that side.

I’m not sure how this could be fixed, or if this is the only problem. I would surely welcome other ideas about what might cause this problem or who might be able to fix it.

Aha…my crookedness seems to come more from the shaft to which the handle attaches. I suppose such things are to be expected when working with old, well-used equipment.

Gilly- bent and/or worn shafts… and their related bearings are something that one must deal with from time to time when using older equipment. Fortunately, on smaller machines like your #5, this is not terribly difficult to repair.

Once you have disassembled the machine, the first thing to do is look at the shaft itself. If it is bent or worn undersized in a few places, then a new one can be fabricated from bar stock. Just about any machine shop worth it’s salt should be able to turn one for you. Call around and explain what you need…. and select the one who seems to understand best.

IF the bearing / hole is worn loose or egg-shaped, then it can be drilled out and a bushing tapped into place. For a SMALL press like a Sigwalt or Kelsey this can be done with a drill press if you are handy with tools. I’m a bit of a klutz myself, and I’ve successfully done probably a dozen machines. If I can do it, I’m sure you can too. The bushings can be purchased from McMaster Carr in Atlanta. ( For a larger press, or a precision machine like a Vandercook it can be a bit difficult though…. I wouldn’t recommend that a novice try it. You could wind up ruining the machine. )

Bushings! I’ve looked it up, and Winking Cat, you may have just solved two long-running mysteries for me.

One: how my Sigwalt might be made all better.

Two: Years ago, I bought a baby carrier made by an Italian manufacturer. The assembly instructions were memorable: “Insert the blockings into the blushings and wheel in anti-time sense.”

I got the dang thing put together, but never could figure out what “blushings” were supposed to be. (Never mind “blockings.” )